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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence says diplomatic actions taken by Russian in response to fresh sanctions will not deter U.S. commitment to its security and that of its allies.

Speaking Tuesday during a visit to Georgia, Pence said the sanctions bill President Donald Trump will soon sign sends a "very clear message" that with Russia's activities in Ukraine and its support for Iran and Syria, its "posture has to change."

Congress overwhelmingly passed the sanctions bill punishing Russia for interference in the 2016 U.S. election, while also imposing new measures on Iran and North Korea. Russia responded by ordering the U.S. to cut its overall staff of more than 1,200 in Russia by 755 people.

"The president and our Congress are unified in our message to Russia: a better relationship, the lifting of sanctions, will require Russia to reverse the actions that required sanctions to be imposed in the first place," Pence said.

Pence is on a multi-nation tour meant to show U.S. support for its allies in the region.

He said after a meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Tbilisi that the United States will work with Georgia to counter Russian aggression and "seek a peaceful resolution" that restores the country's internationally recognized borders.

In 2008, Russia intervened militarily in Georgia, and later recognized the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. A few other countries also recognize that independence, though the vast majority of nations consider the areas still as part of Georgia.

"The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and under President Donald Trump the United States of America will reject any claim at any time by any nation that undermines this enduring principle," Pence said.

The vice president is also traveling Tuesday to Montenegro, NATO's newest member.

No response yet to Putin

Russia's retaliation for the U.S. sanctions is believed to be the single largest cut ever imposed on the U.S. embassy in Moscow and consulates elsewhere in Russia, although many of those to be dismissed are likely Russians working in support positions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the cuts would leave both Russia and the U.S. with the same number of staff and diplomats in Washington and Moscow, respectively - 455.

President Donald Trump has been silent on the issue since Putin announced his action. Asked about this Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "Right now we are reviewing our options, and when we have something to say on it we will let you know."

The U.S. State Department said the order to reduce the number of American diplomats in Russia was "a regrettable and uncalled for act." A spokesman said U.S. officials are assessing how to respond to Putin.

By: Walter Metuth